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I love a good snack I do.  A ‘snackette’ (my phrase for a quick snack, which may be taken on the fly or perched on your top tube if you wish and yes, it is trademarked) is one of life’s simple pleasures.  It seemed natural therefore to take a look at snacks, both those from the old school and the new kids on the block, to see which are the real deal.

Traditional Snacking.

Prepare to get nostalgic people, there’ll be no tin foil wrapped delicious treats here, just good, wholesome, old school snackage the likes of which our two wheeled forefathers enjoyed. They were simpler days; water bottles contained the freshest tap water, a dash of salt and some orange juice; Grand Tour riders sent their domestiques in to cafe’s for champagne, cider and beer; and a pasty from the local bakery would keep you going all day. But while I will happily spend an hour trying to justify the nutritional value of a sausage roll, you won’t find many pro’s or amateurs quaffing a bottle of champagne, so lets take a look at some traditional snackage that’s survived.

First, one of the classic members of the habitual snackers portfolio – the humble banana.  Entirely natural, relatively cheap (unless you live in Australia) and very good for you, there’s not a lot to dislike about the banana.  The only downside is what to do with the banana skin – if only they were truly as slippy as the cartoons of my childhood suggested then they’d make a rather excellent competitive weapon.  Sadly, as my non-existent palmares shows, they are not, but we should all take care to dispose of our banana skins out of sight as they take some time to decompose.

The 4th Earl of Sandwich and the inventor of a great snack!

But what else might you pop in your other pockets to compliment your banana I hear you cry?  Well, how about a sandwich – created by a member of the English aristocracy, the sandwich (for those of you unfamiliar) comprises of two slices of bread with a filling neatly ‘sandwiched’ in the middle (get it?!).  Easy to pop in your back pocket to be enjoyed on a sunny hill top or out the front of your favourite cafe, you can choose any filling you like.  Classics include the cheese sandwich (which incidentally is excellent for staving off the bonk, having a good mix of protein, fat and carbohydrate) and the ham sandwich.  Other fillings might include peanut butter (and/or jam) for those with a sweeter tooth.

It's a figgy fig fig roll.

If you fancy something a little fruitier then why not pop a few fig rolls in your back pocket.  The fig roll (or Newton for those of you in America) has carried many a weary rider the last few painful miles when the legs gave up (check out our bonking blog).  Thankfully now in plentiful supply after the fig shortage of 2008 (dark, dark days) fig rolls pack a dense, fruity punch, perfect for carrying you over the finish line.

A delicious little carrot cake, just in case you'd forgotten what it looked like...

Finally, perhaps not the snack choice of a true elite athlete, but a staple of my cafe stops is the glorious cake.  Whether its a lemon drizzle, a naughty little carrot cake or a slightly (only just) healthier flapjack, the glorious cake can brighten any day.  Just remember that you must, whenever enjoying a nice slice, have a good cup of tea or coffee to hand.  Perfect!

Tech Snacks.

With the margins between athletes getting smaller all the time, any performance gains count, no matter how small.  One of the major areas which has advanced has been nutrition – snacking has (quite rightly) been the subject of significant research to develop products which deliver the optimum amounts of energy, minerals and other goodies to help you perform better. 

Thor Hushovd tucking in to a ZipVit ZV9

The new (to PBK) ZipVit range (check out the range review blog) has some very good products which we’ve been enjoying at PBK Towers.  A highlight of the range for me are the ZV10 energy chews.  As used by the former Cervelo Test Team, these little chewable blocks come in packets of eight and are equivalent to a gel or two.  The beauty of these is you can just gently munch on them throughout the ride, stopping any energy rush from doing a gel in one and also a lot less messy.  Another great feature is that these contain minerals and vitamins to help you after the finish line as well.  While sounding a little unusual, the Pomegranate and Watermelon flavour is truly delicious, sweet without being sickly and also refreshing.

If energy gels are your thing, High5 could have just the product you’re after.  I’ve always found them a little harsh on the stomach, but the High5 IsoGel is gentle on the stomach and Isotonic meaning you don’t have to down a litre of water having choked down a gel of dubious texture.  If you like a bit of caffeine with your energy fix, they even make an IsoGel Plus which gives you a bit of a caffeine kick as well as some isotonically balanced energy.  Perfect when your mean friends won’t let you stop for some coffee.

The energy bar has also provided a great alternative to energy gels.  Perfect when you’re out on those long rides and want something with a little more substance (or even just solid), the Clif range of energy bars can often be found in my back pocket.  They don’t contain nasties like trans-fats, but they do contain vitamins, minerals and natural ingredients.  They come in some pretty tasty flavours too, helping stave off the cake longings.  Do also check out the Clif Builder Bar, a handy portable recovery bar they’re great if you’re ever on a trip, or unable to get a recovery drink quickly.  They’re also easy to eat and not messy.

Instead of putting water in your bottle, why not try an electrolyte?  Nuun tablets are a great way of turning a bottle of water in to an electrolyte drink, making it tastier and also helping replenish minerals lost during exercise and sweating.  The beauty of these is that you don’t have to lug around a great big tub with you, you can just pop one tablet in to your bottle or back pocket and it is there, ready and waiting.  Available in some tasty flavours like Orange/Ginger, Cola and Lemon/Lime they’re also quite palatable.

So we’ve paid homage to the old school snacks and also taken a brief look at some modern nutrition solutions.  Which is better?  Honestly, I don’t think either can claim to be better, some of the high tech snacks will provide more efficient energy, but then there is something lovely about sitting outside a cafe in the sun with your friends.  The conclusion?  They’re both great and you’ll find both in the back pockets of my jersey.

What snacks do you swear by?  Any awesome cafe’s you want to shout out?  As always we’re waiting (with a coffee…!) to hear from you.

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